Friday, June 20, 2008
The Poltics of Small Town Voting
I made the leap, y'all. I did the unimaginable, though completely inevitable. I'm excited and ashamed and don't know if Daddy will still respect me, call me son, and slip me gas money every now and again after I confess my transgression.
I switched my voter registration from Mississippi to Tennessee. *Gasp* There, I said it, it's forthwith known throughout the world that I'm a traitor to my Dixieland DeSoto County roots.
Well, really, it's not that catastrophic. It's just more convenient to go down to the precinct in Knoxville in November, cast my vote for Obama, and walk away with my head held high. It sure beats the hell out of the alternative: absentee voting, which is what I've always done until now. In Mississippi, in the primaries, you have to vote with your party, and when I called back in February, I could feel the contempt oozing through the phone lines as I told the woman at the courthouse I'd be needing a Democratic ballot. "Oh, really," she drawled, and I was sure she'd "mistakenly" lose my address. I still shudder when I think about it.
In college, I was very active with the UCA Young Democrats and the Young Democrats of Arkansas. Hell, even the Young Democrats of America, because back in August of '05, I went to the national convention in San Francisco as a representative from the Natural State. Where I wasn't even registered to vote. Oh, the shame.
Despite myriad opportunities to switch my registration, I never did it. Spent countless hours tabling in the Student Center registering others to vote, but never did confess I wasn't an Arkansas voter. Granted, I am a voter. Make no mistakes about that. I've voted in EVERY SINGLE election I could since I turned 18. Even those inconsequential elections to determine the Superintendent of Education and county commissioner. It's just the way my daddy raised me. Daddy is not a religious man. He is skeptical of institutions that require 10 % of your monthly income and water-dunking initiations. But the man votes. Voting is singly important to him, and he raised Jeffrey and me to understand that it is our duty as Americans to vote. He fought for that right in Viet Nam, dammit. Not to vote would be to slap him in the face.
And not to vote in Mississippi will break his heart. Though I haven't lived in Mississippi full-time in 5 years, my father still operates with the understanding that once I'm finished with school, I will move back to DeSoto County, set up a trailer on the 40 acres, and cut his grass when he's too old to do it himself. I won't go into the pros and cons of that set up right now (except to say that I hope Jeffrey feels more inclined to accepting that future than I do), lest I distract myself from the issue at hand: My father is a life-long Mississippian, a law enforcement officer in the Magnolia State, and damn proud of it. He always talked me out of switching my voter registration to Arkansas for some reason or another, and I heeded to his daunting tales of jury duty, the perils of switching my car insurance, and the destruction of the family unit as we know it if I did not vote in the same place he did.
But last night I was out at a free concert in Market Square. The Obama folks were out, and I wanted to find out how I could help out. Well, mostly I wanted a free sticker. When I saw the voter registration forms, I unhesitatingly filled one out. The Obama girl assured me she'd mail it in, and in ever how many weeks, I'll be a registered Tennessee voter. I'm more than a little bit excited.
But please, don't tell my daddy just yet. This is a delicate situation.